By Carole Gaskell

Coaching is a potentially valuable tool for any organisation looking to stimulate change — whether in individuals or company-wide. But it is a commitment of resources — both time and finances — so choosing a coaching firm with care is essential to reap the maximum benefits from this investment. The following tips can help.

1. Positive Proof - Accreditation from an industry body verifies the organisation’s credibility. Ensure that all coaches, trainers and facilitators have followed extensive coach training. Ideally they will have attended a minimum of a 2-year long programme that has been accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF)

2. Honesty - Make sure the firm is honest with you. It is important that the people who win you over are the people actively engaged in the coaching programme. Unscrupulous firms bring senior, experienced coaches along to the first meeting and then delegate the actual coaching to junior staff

3. Expertise - Seek references and credentials. Look for a history of sound coaching practice. Does the coaching firm have knowledge and experience with the level of individuals who require coaching? Do they have in-depth expertise in your sector? Can they provide testimonials?

4. Clarity and Measurement is key - From the outset, be clear on the objectives of the coaching programme and how success will be measured. Why do you want to introduce coaching? What are the tangible benefits you hope will be achieved? What business measures and what behavioural measures will be tracked? How will the coaching be evaluated?

5. Chemistry - Coaching, by its very nature, requires trust and a connection between coach and client. It’s important that there’s a strong degree of personal chemistry between the coach and the employees. Whilst it would be unrealistic to involve too many people in the selection process, it would still be a good idea to schedule half an hour introductory sessions between key personnel and prospective coaches.

6. Integration and collaboration - Coaching is hard, rewarding work, for all parties involved. Coaching is a collaborative relationship which requires the active participation of both parties. How will the coaching firm keep people challenged and motivated to move forwards beyond the first steps?

7. Understanding - Rather than just telling you what they can do, make sure your prospective coaching firm asks what you want and listens to your answers.

8. The Goods - The bottom line is that coaching should engender real results. The effects have to continue after the coach has left so how will the coaching firm help embed coaching within your organisation?

9. Is this the right way? - Make sure you have commitment internally for introducing a coaching firm. This means buy-in from senior management. A company wide coaching programme is unlikely to work without their support.

10. Accountability - Having agreed outcomes at the outset, the coaching firm should be prepared to show accountability for their delivery.

Carole Gaskell is CEO and Founder of Full Potential Group (www.fullpotentialgroup.com)

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